Recreation: disc golf’s popularity continues to soar

03/19/2014 3:49 PM

02/15/2015 10:43 AM

Daffodils have proven to be a resilient flower – especially locally, especially this year. Undaunted since their first bloom weeks ago, they’ve shrunk, and withered at times during this never-ending “winter of our discontent.”

They’ve shown their bright hopeful faces for weeks in yards and forests, only to have been buried beneath the snow and battered by sleet. Then, out of the frost, they renew their vigil as soon as the sunshine returns and temperatures rebound.

Walk through the forests of Carrboro’s Anderson Park and you discover another irrepressible faction – disc golfers. For them, While winter has been more than reluctant to give up her grip, a casual round of disc golf is only one sunny day away.

Winter may have dampened interest in Carrboro Recreation and Park’s first disc golf clinic (postponed due to weather and low registration), but the next clinic us just weeks away, on April 26.

Clinics are led by instructor Matthew Smith, who started hurling discs as an ultimate Frisbee competitor and now mentors / coaches the UNC Disc Golf Club (

“I did my first one about a year after we got the Anderson Park course installed out there,” he said, “so maybe since 2009. More recently, it’s become a steadier schedule. We had one where we had 16 kids show up.”

“We provide the discs,” Smith said. “We also stress the importance the rules of the game and etiquette. Almost the entire mental game of traditional golf translates to disc golf, including the rules, policing yourself, and etiquette.”

Smith said that one of most attractive features about the activity is the fact that virtually anyone can enjoy it, and all are welcome.

“For the most part, it’s younger kids at the clinics, and we’ve had some kids around 12 or 13,” he said, “and we’ve even had a 5-year-old out there. If there’s a huge disparity in skill level and age, I’ll try to break them into groups and work with them that way.”

Collins said the clinic was a great way for adults to learn about the activity as well: “Kids come but parents are welcome too,” she said.

Once novices have picked up even a few basic skills, the possibilities are both endless and cost-free, as numerous local courses have popped up over the past few years. While a course at UNC’s Outdoor Education Center (for former Chapel Hill Country Club golf course) has been in existence since the mid-1990’s, new courses at Anderson Park and Chapel Hill’s Southern Community Park have also opened over the past few years.

“We do hear from people that they’re using that course,” Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation supervisor Michael Troutman said, “so, we’re getting a good response.”

“We’re blessed to have that course out at UNC,” Smith said, “... and the Southern Community Park course is another good one,” Smith added. “It’s a mix of wooded and open holes. It was originally a pine forest that was harvested about 40-50 years ago, and they’ve recently added a lot of basket positions, so it’s turned into a great little course. Anderson’s a little more forested, with four open holes, but it’s mostly wooded.”

Additionally, there are courses throughout the Triangle. Other nearby courses include Cornwallis Road Park and Valley Springs Park in Durham, Kentwood, Cedar Hills Rotary Park, and Buckhorn at Harris Lake County Park in Raleigh.

“A lot of the companies in the Research Triangle Park are getting courses on their business campuses,” said Chris Jones, manager of Play It Again Sports in the Indigo Corners Shopping Center off New Hope Commons Drive in Durham, which stocks a wide array of disc golf discs. “People who work are playing on their lunch breaks. You can buy three discs, you pay no course fees, and you just go out and play.”

The growth of disc golf locally mirrors the popularity worldwide. According to the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association ( their group boasts over 16,000 members. The PDGA is the governing body for the sport, and sanctions competitive events for men and women of every skill level from novice to professional.

The sport of disc golf is played like traditional golf, using flying discs or Frisbees® instead of a ball and clubs. Formalized in the 1970’s, the sport’s object is to complete each hole in the fewest number of strokes (or throws in disc golf).

“A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target which is the ‘hole,’ the PDGA said, “and the hole can be one of a number of targets, the most common being a ‘Pole Hole®,’ an elevated metal basket. To finish each hole, a ‘putt’ lands in the basket and the hole is completed.”

Play it Again Sports’ Jones said, while the area boasts a lot of professional players, there are people new to the sport who enter the store every day looking for information on how to sort through the dizzying choice of specialized discs available.

“You have experienced players, and there are a lot of pros in the area that really know what they want,” Jones said.

“You can get crazy about it. I’m kind of crazy myself,” Smith said. “People can go to Play it Again Sports or Great Outdoor Provisions Company and the see an entire wall of discs.”

One way to circumvent the confusion is to start simply with Carrboro’s next available clinic on April 26 from 10 a.m. until 12 noon at Hank Anderson Park. The clinic will give participants the opportunity to learn rules, etiquette, the basics of throwing discs, and tips and techniques, all free of charge. Those interested should call (919) 918-7364.

With a better understanding of the game, players might want to try their hand at a tournament like the (UNC) Carolina Disc Golf Club’s 14th annual Tar Heel Tournament sponsored by Brixx Pizza. The registration page ( will be updated soon, Smith said.

The Tar Heel Tournament is scheduled for May 17 and 18, which, at this rate, should be just about when daffodils rebound from yet another dose of winter.

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